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Albania

 
Author Solivagant
Partaker
#1 | Posted: 23 Mar 2018 17:01 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Let's start a new "Country Topic"!!
Whilst planning for an upcoming trip to Albania I have come across this which seems to suggest that Albania has actually produced and submitted by end of Feb 1 2018 (as required by the rules) a Nomination for "The Natural and Cultural Heritage of Ohrid Lake region" as an extension to the existing Macedonian WHS. A surprise about this is that is hasn't so far figured in our list of Nominations for the 2019 WHC -
https://invest-in-albania.org/ohrid-lake-way-unesco-listing-world-heritage/

I have also found this document from 2015 which lays out the history of the extension and anticipated plans (including details of the support given by UNESCO etc for this pilot project to trial and develop "Upstream Process" support to States Parties when developing nominations) which were indeed due to complete at the end of 2017. It also contains a nice map showing the intended boundaries of the extension. It is clear that the Nomination is only a part of a much wider plan "The Ohrid Lake Transboundary Project" for "Improved trans boundary cooperation and management effectiveness in place for the protection and sustainable development of the natural and cultural heritage of the Lake Ohrid region "
See - https://rm.coe.int/168048d890

It would appear that the nomination might also encompass another of Albania's T List sites - the Illyrian Tombs of Bassa Selca - https://www.worldheritagesite.org/tentative/id/909
However, whilst the text says it does, the map says it doesn't - unless as a location separate from the main lakeside area! In which case then surely the final nomination will have excluded it in order to avoid extra complications?

Author meltwaterfalls
Partaker
#2 | Posted: 24 Mar 2018 17:24 
Perfect timing Solivagant, especially alongside Els' blog post flagging up its value for money.

I didn't realise the Ohrid extension was moving forward at present, something to factor in to future planning.

Author kintante
Partaker
#3 | Posted: 5 Jan 2020 02:04 
Back from Albania I thought I'd share some travel information about visiting the country.

Albania in off season
We visited in December/January and the tourist region around Saranda, where you will find the WHS of Butrint and Gjirokaster, is basically sleeping. The region heavily depends on beach tourists. During winter, most hotels and restaurants (including all of those recommended by trip advisor) are closed. Same goes for museums, such as the houses in Gjirokaster. Butrint is open all year round. The Gjirokaster castle was open (except the museum inside) and free of charge in off season. A very annoying side effect was that due to low temperatures you had to eat inside and Albanians smoke inside restaurants. And they smoke a lot.

Travelling in Albania
We entered Albania via Corfu. Corfu is the closest airport and another WHS in the region. From Corfu, boats run daily (in high season several times daily) to Saranda in around 30-40mins. Be aware that the boats leave from the very end of the port. You can buy tickets online or in the offices at the port. Saranda has rental car offices directly inside the port building. Hard to miss. From Saranda it's around 30mins drive to Butrint and 1h to Gjirokaster.

Streets are mostly in bad shape and there are no highways. Albanians tend to stop and park whenever and wherever they want. Other than that, it was not too hard to drive there and you need no special skills. For the non-drivers I suggest to check Nan's reviews.

Money and internet
This is a pain point. Most restaurants and stores only take cash. Most of them also accept Euros, but be careful, as the change rate is not always favorable. Getting Lek from an ATM is always subject to an additional fee (5 Euros or more) and there are few ATMs. Bring Euros and try to find places that accept credit cards.

Internet is a problem, as Albania is not included into the EU roaming pact and data packages are very expensive. You can survive on hotel Wifi and most restaurants also offer free Wifi. I downloaded the map of the area and could survive offline.

What else is there to see in the south?
We also visited Saranda castle (where you will find some communist bunkers), the picturesque blue eye (Syri I Kalter) and the Albanian coastline. In summer you can visit the Ksamil Islands, but in winter the town is dead and no boats are running.

All in all Albania is still a very authentic experience and I will be back to visit the north.

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 Albania

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